Ruling Over Sin

A face value reading of 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 provides us with practical advice for dealing with disputes between Christians. But Paul (or the Holy Spirit inspiring Him) presents his case in the familiar Covenantal pattern, which allows the author to ground it in some fundamental biblical events, revealing the universal context of every one of our own day-to-day decisions. Every dispute places us in the courts of God as His ministers. Paul’s unique argument and its allusions are easily explained once this structure is discerned.

Reading the Bible through the lens of the Bible Matrix is a manipulation of the text — unless of course the patterns I rave about are actually inherent in the text. Based on the Covenant-literary analysis below, am I putting a foreign spin on the text, or is the text already spinning? You be the judge.

TRANSCENDENCE – The Seat of Moses
Creation / Genesis / Ark of the Covenant

When one of you has a grievance  (CREATION – INITIATION – WORD)
does he dare go to law  (ASCENSION – PRESENTATION – ALTAR/PRIESTS)
before the unrighteous  (TESTING – PURIFICATION – RULERS/KINGS)

that the saints will judge the world?  (GLORIFICATION – REPRESENTATION – NATIONS)

In the big picture of Covenant history, the Apostolic Church was “Maturity,” the establishing of a prophetic body comprised of all nations. Following Jethro’s advice (Exodus 18), Moses chose able men from among all the people, men who knew the law and who could judge the lesser cases, while Moses represented them all before God. In Acts 6, it is Spirit-filled men who are chosen to fulfil lesser duties, but nevertheless the same Spirit shared by all saints, including the apostles. Since the saints have one mind in Christ, His judgment in all matters can be made clear through submission to the Spirit. The inability of saints to deal with disputes among themselves is a sign of a deeper problem.

HIERARCHY – The Heavenly Court
Division / Exodus / Veils

are you incompetent  (TESTING – PURIFICATION – RULERS/KINGS)

that we are to judge angels?  (GLORIFICATION – REPRESENTATION – NATIONS)

Architecturally, Paul begins in the Garden, the Sanctuary where Adam is willing to defraud, well, everybody who has ever lived since, over a simple matter, a small thing. Instead of judging according to the revelation of God, Adam listens to a satanic “judge” who will tell him exactly what he wants to hear. We know that being “gods” includes sitting in wise judgment. The Ark-throne is the light of God’s law, and Adam is the veil of flesh which must be torn to avoid a history of darkness on earth. It is interesting that in both stanzas the phrase “Do you not know…” appears at Conquest/Atonement, corresponding to the opening of the veil for the High Priest, ministering to avert judgment on behalf of all humanity.

ETHICS – The Triune Office

Ascension / Leviticus / Bronze Altar

PRIESTHOOD: Aaron & Moses

How much more, then,  (CREATION – INITIATION – WORD)
matters pertaining to this life!  (DIVISION – DELEGATION – VEIL OF FLESH)
So if you have such cases,  (ASCENSION – PRESENTATION – ALTAR/PRIESTS)
why do you lay them before those  (TESTING – PURIFICATION – RULERS/KINGS)
who have no standing in the church?  (MATURITY – TRANSFORMATION – ELDERS/PROPHETS)
I say this to your shame.  (CONQUEST – VINDICATION – VEIL REMOVED)


This Stanza concerns the location of the presentation of the case, alluding to the bringing of sacrifices to the Bronze Altar. In this world, there are no blameless parties. No case is cut and dried, at least on the surface of things, which is why wise judgment is required. Once again their lack of Spirit-filled wisdom is highlighted in the fifth line, and the shame of naked Adam is alluded to in line six.

Testing / Numbers / Lampstand

KINGDOM: David and Solomon

Can it be that there is no one  (CREATION – SABBATH)
among you  (DIVISION – PASSOVER)
to settle a dispute  (TESTING – PENTECOST)
between the brothers,  (MATURITY – TRUMPETS)
but brother goes to law against brother,  (CONQUEST – ATONEMENT)

and that before unbelievers?  (GLORIFICATION – BOOTHS)

Israel’s festal calendar comes to the fore in this stanza. Just as there was no man to till the Garden at Creation, so there is no one with kingly wisdom among the Corinthians. There is no one worthy to open the scroll at Ascension, alluding to the exaltation of Joseph, Daniel and Christ as wise men in the courts of the king. The dispute appears at the centre of the central stanza in the entire construct, the Testing of Testing, and the disputing brothers at Maturity allude to the sons of Jacob, willing to murder their brother at Atonement and sell him into the service of Gentiles at Booths. Of course, now Paul, like Joseph, is putting his brothers through the fire to test their hearts.

Maturity / Deuteronomy / Incense Altar

PROPHECY: Jeremiah and Zedekiah

Already indeed  (CREATION – INITIATION – WORD)
it is a defeat for you  (DIVISION – DELEGATION – VEIL OF FLESH)
to have lawsuits with one another.  (ASCENSION – PRESENTATION – ALTAR/PRIESTS)
Why not rather suffer wrong?  (TESTING – PURIFICATION – RULERS/KINGS)
Why not rather be defrauded?  (MATURITY – TRANSFORMATION – ELDERS/PROPHETS)
But you yourselves wrong and defraud —  (CONQUEST – VINDICATION – VEIL REMOVED)


Working his way out from the centre, Paul now alludes to the martyroi as legal witnesses who are willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness. The mention of defeat might be a reference to Israel’s failure to maintain possession of the Land. Indeed, the Land eventually vomited Israel out due to her idolatries, but the last straw was the double-mindedness of the people concerning their Hebrew slaves, their own brothers (perhaps the referent of Jesus’ “least of my brethren” in Matthew 25) under the rule of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 34:8-22).

OATH/SANCTIONS – The Day of the Lord
Conquest / Joshua / Laver: High Priest & Sacrifices

Or do you not know  (CREATION – DAY 1 – GENESIS)
that the unrighteous  (DIVISION – DAY 2 – EXODUS)
the kingdom of God  (ASCENSION – DAY 3 – LEVITICUS: LAND)
Do not be deceived:  (TESTING – DAY 4 – RULERS/FALSE SPIRITS)
neither fornicators,  (TRANSCENDENCE)
nor idolaters,  (HIERARCHY)
nor adulterers,  (ETHICS)
[nor effeminate,  (OATH)
nor homosexuals,1The ESV misguidedly combines 2 Greek words into one, the “soft ones” and “those who lie with men.” Crudely, Paul is talking about bottoms and tops, false bodies and false heads. The effeminate are a perversion of marriage, and the homosexual act is the perversion of the marriage bed.]  (SUCCESSION)
nor thieves,  (TRANSCENDENCE)
nor covetous,  (HIERARCHY)
nor drunkards,  (ETHICS)
nor revilers,  (OATH)
nor swindlers  (SUCCESSION)
the kingdom of God  (CONQUEST – DAY 6 – MEDIATORS)

will inherit.  (GLORIFICATION – DAY 7 – REST & RULE)

This is a beautiful construct. The entire Stanza corresponds to Oath/Sanctions, the Covenant blessings and curses, and the possession of the Land by Israel in the book of Joshua. You might notice that the first instance of “will not inherit” corresponds to the Levites, who were themselves considered as God’s inheritance, His “firstborn” (Numbers 3:12), and were thus not allotted any Land.2Indeed, the structure of the book of Leviticus is basically six-fold, ending with Covenant curses and no Succession, since unlike Melchizedekian priest-kings, Aaronic priests were forbidden from drinking wine before God.

Just as “Do you not know…?” appeared at line 6 in the first two Stanzas, now it begins Stanza 6. Paul’s voice is also the prophet Noah, cutting off the inheritance of a race of false gods, who think it is their right not only to sin, but also to execute vengeance in God’s place.

At the Deuteronomy step, we have “ten words,” both apparently describing the progression of corruption, fornication and theft leading to greater sins, both ending in the loss of inheritance at Succession. Disregarding this fractal expansion of line 5 for a moment, the repeated mentions of inheritance of the kingdom in the double line 3 (Land and firstfruits) and in line 7 reveal this to be a recapitulation of Creation.

Forming (Days 1-3)
Filling (Days 4-7)
Do you not know
Do not be deceived:
that the unrighteous
[unrepentant sinners – Ten Words]
the kingdom of God
the kingdom of God
Land Animals and Man
will not inherit?
Grain & Grape Bearers
will not inherit.
Rest & Rule: Bread & Wine

Glorification / Judges / Shekinah

were some of you.  (HIERARCHY – CURSING)
But you were washed,  (ETHICS – LAW GIVEN)
you were sanctified,  (ETHICS – LAW OPENED)
you were justified  (ETHICS – LAW RECEIVED)
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ  (OATH – BLESSING)

and by the Spirit of our God.  (SUCCESSION – SUPERNATURE)

Finally, Paul reminds these saints of their own legal standing before God, whose own Son suffered wrong and was defrauded by all, that all might be released from their legal debt.

The process of salvation appears here in the three Ethics lines: washed, sanctified and justified–all referring to the sacrificial procedure in the court of the Tabernacle. It is the move from external law (childhood) to internal law (maturity) through the indwelling of the Spirit. The Covenant Oath at line 6 is the confession of the name of Christ on their lips, and the Spirit is the presence of God in the household of faith, the New Covenant Shekinah. The saints are already “gods,” judging between light and darkness by the Spirit, as long as they do not walk in the flesh.

History began with a man who failed to judge an angel, and will end with a redeemed race where even the least is indeed truly a “god,” able to discern between the light and the darkness in every realm. And we are already seated with Christ in whom are all the riches of wisdom and knowledge.

Being defrauded by Christians is distressing – for both those inside and outside the Church. Those who are hurt by Christians are often the most bitter towards God of all people. Being wronged and defrauded is not easy (I am self-employed, and I can get very snaky when clients fail to pay!) but the Bible gives us a long history of men mistreated by their brothers, beginning with Abel, and it was they who changed the world.

IMAGE: Throne of Tutankhamun

References   [ + ]

1. The ESV misguidedly combines 2 Greek words into one, the “soft ones” and “those who lie with men.” Crudely, Paul is talking about bottoms and tops, false bodies and false heads. The effeminate are a perversion of marriage, and the homosexual act is the perversion of the marriage bed.
2. Indeed, the structure of the book of Leviticus is basically six-fold, ending with Covenant curses and no Succession, since unlike Melchizedekian priest-kings, Aaronic priests were forbidden from drinking wine before God.

Cyrus the Shepherd

After the events in Daniel 6, Cyrus made his famous decree (Ezra 1) authorising the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Isaiah predicted Cyrus by name over 100 years before Cyrus’ birth. Daniel would have been familiar with the prophecy, and like the inhabitants of the province of Babylon, welcomed the end of Belshazzar’s rule. Following the patterns given to shepherds Moses (Priestly) and David (Kingly), the prophecy in Isaiah 44:24-28 presents the building of the Jew-Gentile (Prophetic) oikoumene Temple as a new microcosmic Creation:



(Creation – Ark of the Testimony)

Thus says the Lord (Ark – Sabbath)
your Redeemer, (Veil – Passover)
He who formed you (Bronze Altar – Firstfruits of Land: Genesis 3:17-19; 17:8)
from the womb: (Golden Table – Firstfruits of Womb: Genesis 3:16; 17:7)

The Lord has already referred to the Forming of Israel a number of times in this chapter. The word has the idea of fashioning something from clay. It is “earthy,” referring to the creation of Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47-49). Israel was “shattered” like Egypt (Jeremiah 18) and would be remade, not from the broken pieces but from fresh earth.

The Cycle begins with a statement of Yahweh’s Transcendence. “From the womb” might have been Succession, but the Stanza only has four lines (“the Lord” cannot be placed at Hierarchy), so this seems to be only half a Stanza. Thus the womb is a reference to Israel as God’s firstborn, the Isaac, the Ascension Offering. The literary structure thus lifts Israel up from bondage (in this case Babylon, not Egypt) and places him on the Altar awaiting the holy fire as “breath” from heaven to bring him new life.


(Division – Veil – between heaven and earth)

“I am the Lord
who makes all,
that stretches forth the heavens
by myself
that spreads abroad the Land
the waters

This Stanza includes the word mayim, meaning waters, yet strangely the English translations I checked all seem to omit them. The literary structure requires their presence, referring to the division made on Day 2, but also to the command against idolatry in Exodus 20:4. You might notice that this Stanza begins with the Lord in heaven Above, moves the Land, and then to the waters “under” the Land. The final word is tricky, but “among” seems to be the most suitable meaning, since the new Israel will be a Land washed clean, rising from the waters of the other nations. Also, the heavens are placed at Ascension (Covenant Head) and the earth is placed at Maturity (Covenant Body).


(Ascension – Altar and Table – Plenipotent Man)

to make void (Creation – Ark – Genesis)
the signs (Division – Veil – Exodus)
of boasters, (Ascension – Altar – Leviticus)
and make diviners (Table)
mad, (Testing – Lampstand – Numbers)
to draw wise men (Maturity – Incense – Deuteronomy)
backward (Conquest – Mediators – Joshua)
and make their knowledge foolish, (Glorification – Rest & Rule – Judges)
The subject matter of this Stanza might not appear Levitical at first glance, but Leviticus concerns the “firstborn,” and the “firstfruits” offerings. The Levites were themselves referred to as the firstborn.

Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine. (Numbers 3:12-13)

Christ, as firstborn from the dead, ascended to the right hand of the Father and opened the mystery of God. This was prefigured in both Joseph and Daniel, who served their emperors as wise men, and ironically in Haman. That is the allusion here.

The word “annul” or “make void” in Line 1 is not the “void” of Genesis 1. This word has legal connotations instead. At Creation, it is a reference to Transcendent power, but that power is in the hand of a plenipotent mediator, such as Joseph or Daniel (see “Images of God” in Sweet Counsel for a full discussion).

The word “mad” at the center literally means “to shine.” It carries the idea of a false glory, of boasting, which ties it not only to the “shining  one” in Eden, but in Arabic it also has the connotation of moonlight, an allusion to Day 4.

“Backward” means hind parts, and possibly refers to failing to enter into rest and rule with God. Thus the word “knowledge” in Line 7 is the word used in Genesis 2:9, referring to moral knowledge, sound judgment. Thus, when Christ ascended, He became the one who sent a strong delusion to confuse, confound and divide His Judaistic enemies, just as the Lord sent troubling and lying spirits in the Old Testament.



(Testing – Lampstand – the Word)

who confirms the word (Transcendence)
of his servant (Hierarchy)
and fulfills (Ethics)
the counsel (Oath/Sanctions)
of his messengers, (Succession)

The Word is primary here. Notice the priestly “servant” at Hierarchy and the wise at Sanctions. “Messengers” is placed at Succession, which carries the idea of representation by faithful sons who image their Father. Carrying this forward, it refers to Christ’s obedience in fulfilling the Law.


(Maturity – Incense Altar – Resurrection)

who says
of Jerusalem,
‘You shall be inhabited,’
and to the cities of Judah,
‘You shall be built,
and their ruins
I will raise up’;

The theme at Maturity is resurrection, a new “bridal” Israel constructed after the death of the old Adamic body has been bloodied. The scepter of Judah at the center is the government of the Messianic King.


(Conquest – High Priest and Sacrifices – Dominion)

who says (Transcendence)
to the deep, (Hierarchy)
‘Be dry; (Ethics)
and your rivers (Oath/Sanctions)
I will dry up’; (Succession)
Historically, the “deep” is a reference to the Red Sea and the Jordan, waters through which Israel had to cross to possess the Land. Architecturally, the “deep” is a reference to the Laver, the washing of the priests and sacrifices as the “Body.” You can see the waters in this position in Stanza 2. The baptismal accounts in Acts place the baptisms at this point in their structures. Ezekiel speaks of the nations conquered by Babylon as testifying from the deep. Israel was the only nation of the old order which would rise again, although in a different, more glorious and prophetic form. Standing or walking upon the waters refers to dominion over the nations, beginning with Adam’s position over the springs in Eden, alluded to in Isaiah 11:15 concerning Israel’s return, and serving as background to Christ’s walking on the water. The basic meaning is Sanctuary access as a Covenant mediator through the power of God.



(Glorification – Shekinah – Co-regents)

who says of Cyrus, (Initiation)
‘my shepherd,’ (Delegation)
and ‘all my purpose he shall perform’; (Law Given – Priest)
saying of Jerusalem, (Law Opened – King)
She shall be built,’ (Law Received – Prophet)
and to the temple, (Vindication)
‘Your foundation shall be laid.’” (Representation)

Just as the filling of the Tabernacle occurred at the end of the book of Exodus, so the foundation of the Temple is the beginning of a new era for Israel. The placement of Cyrus as the “he,” the Head, and Jerusalem as the “she,” the body, is striking. Outside of that, we have the shepherd at Passover/Delegation and the Temple at Atonement/Vindication. And of course there is the Ethical progression at the center which is a microcosm of the entire Cycle: Priest (Forming), King (Filling) and Prophet (Future).